"Chapter 1" is the first episode of Roanoke. It premiered September 14, 2016.
The episode intercuts a "fictionalized" narrative with events "as they happened" for a reality-based television program. The re-enactors and the victims are played by different actors.
Shelby and Matt Miller give testimonials about their victimization in a gang initiation in Los Angeles for a television program called "My Roanoke Nightmare". Shelby miscarried her baby and Matt was seriously injured. They relocated to North Carolina to avoid further violence. During a picnic, they find themselves in a colonial-era farmhouse. They are intrigued by the property, which they purchase for $40,000, outbidding a hostile family of locals. Shelby begins to feel a foreboding.
Matt and Shelby begin repairing the dilapidated house. While the two have a celebratory sex, a howling out in the woods interrupts them. Matt investigates the destruction outside and assumes it is community hostility against them as an interracial couple. While Matt is gone on a business trip, the next morning, Shelby hears a hailstorm against the house. When she investigates, it turns out to be a rain of human teeth. When Matt returns to his frightened wife, the teeth are gone.
Matt pursues a regional sales position, requiring a lot of travel, and Shelby worries about being alone in the house. She begins seeing and hearing startling apparitions. While he's away, she bathes in an outdoor hot-tub, where she is pushed underwater by vaguely-seen figures in colonial dresses carrying pitchforks and torches. However, a lack of any physical evidence leaves police skeptical of her claims. Shelby begins to fear the house and wants to move, though she keeps those concerns to herself. The next morning, Matt finds a slaughtered pig on their doorstep, but secretly buries it in the woods so as not to alarm Shelby.
He persuades his judgmental sister Lee to move in to keep her company. He also sets up surveillance cameras around the property that he can monitor remotely. Lee's background is in criminal psychology, though she was fired from her police job due to an abuse of prescription pain-killers. Lee's stark sobriety puts her at further odds with her wine-drinking sister-in-law.
The disturbing incidents continue, and eventually, Matt receives an automated alert from the security system. He sees the perimeter has been breached by several torch-bearing, knife-wielding intruders, just as Shelby described. He futilely tries to reach his wife and sister by phone but is unheard as the women engage in a shouting match. When Lee hears an intruder enter the house, she and Shelby track shouts and cries downstairs to the basement, where a home-recorded video is playing on a TV. In the video, a man tracks a pig-headed creature. Suddenly, the electricity cus out and they hear the mob upstairs. When the women return upstairs, they find that the house has been strung up like a spider web, with interlaced wooden dolls and totems hanging from the jute string.
When Matt returns and they show him the video, he thinks it's a fake to intimidate the couple and scare them away. Shelby wants to leave, but Lee suggests they stand their ground, and Matt pleads that they have nowhere to go, as they've invested everything. Suddenly Matt hears a car's engine: Shelby driving away. She is distracted by answering a call from Matt, just before she collides with an old woman standing in the road, smashing her windshield. The woman gets up and walks into the woods, vanishing as Shelby pursues on foot. Shelby, now lost in the woods, finds a clearing with more of the hanging twine totems. The ground itself begins to undulate as if breathing, and she runs deeper into the woods. She is surrounded by a torch-bearing mob and a man with the top of his skull removed, exposing his brain. He collapses at her feet.
- Shelby Miller (Testimonial): "I loved it. And I loved him, but from the very first moment, I felt danger there."
- Matt Miller (Testimonial): "My wounds healed quicker. They were nothing compared to what she [had] lost: a life inside of her."
- FANDOM: Episode recap and reaction
- This season began with a special introduction from Ryan Murphy.
- The opening credit sequence was abbreviated, and the title card simply reads "American Horror Story". This season facilitates the framework that we are watching an episode of the fictional program "My Roanoke Nightmare". The more traditional theme and starring actors were shifted to the end credits.
- The "testimonial" interviewed are played by different actors than their "in action" counterparts. The reason behind it is not given in this episode, constituting one of the season' mysteries.
- Evan Peters and Cheyenne Jackson are credited but do not appear.